Captain’s Log: LibertyCon 32

My table at the Kaffeklatsch Sunday morning

LibertyCon 32 has come and gone. As I’ve stated in the past, this is my favorite convention. It is my home. It is my family.

We lost one of our own earlier this year. Richard Timothy Bolgeo, the founder and former chairman of LibertyCon, left this world in May. He was to have been the Special Guest of Honor this year. Instead, he was memorialized and his life celebrated by all.

I count this year’s convention as a personal success. I sold 3 more books than I bought, for a change. I also sold 4 prints of some Anne McCaffrey’s Pern fan art I created for the Dragon*Con ’89 art show. Although I no longer have the original (lost it about 6 residential moves ago), I was informed by the art show staff at D*C that year that the only piece Ms. McCaffrey bought was a print of my Young Queen with Rider.

I will have prints available at my table at Chattacon next January. I’m still debating whether to do a table at ConNooga in February or not. I’ve never made the table fee back at that con. If I don’t, I might reach out to some of the vendors I know about selling on commission at that one.

The art sales may be leading to some art commissions for me. I haven’t been in touch with the potential client yet to hash out details, so I’m not at liberty to say more at this time.

Picked up some tips and information which may apply to that at the first panel I attended: Cover Art and Illustrations for Fiction Books. The panelists, Amanda Makepeace, Mitch Foust, and Melissa Gay, talked about contract dos and don’ts, what to ask a client for or supply an artist with when commissioning book related art, what fees are separate, how the negotiation of art rights affects the final price, and to subscribe to the Patreon of an artist you want to work with in order to get in good with them.

Trust me, during the course of the convention I heard horror stories from both sides about cover art contracts gone bad or artists who were prima donnas to work with. I also heard stories of fantastic collaborations between artists and/or authors and publishers.

I also picked up some VERY helpful tips about getting professional looking cover art on a budget. This gives me hope for stepping up getting Waves of Darkness books 1-7 back on the market.

I learned some very good tips on marketing in the Newsletter Marketing workshop presented by Russell and Morgan Newquist of Silver Empire Publishing. While I’m not sure if a newsletter is right for me, given my very limited free time, I believe much of the advice can be carried over to the management of this site.

Of the panels I was on, in the Crossing Steampunk panel we discussed what genres work best with crossing over. We determined there really are no limits, since Steampunk is more an asthetic than a defined genre. It is open to individual interpretation and taste. My co-panelists were D . Alan Lewis, Claire Count, Quincy J. Allen, H. P. Holo, and Dan Hollifield.

On the Allure of Pirates panel, which I moderated, we discussed why pirates hold such a draw, whether they be historical or fictitious, on the high seas, in space, or even in Hell (Michael H. Hanson was a contributor to Perseid Press’ Pirates in Hell edition of the Heroes in Hell anthology series). The other panelists were D. Alan Lewis, C. S. Ferguson, and James Hunter, a former Marine and real-life pirate hunter. It was really entertaining to watch Mr. Hunter go all fan boy over Blackbeard when some of us revealed tidbits we’d picked up about him during the course of research on pirates and piracy for our books.

I actually had someone show up for the reading I shared with David Burkhead.

Also, the Kids’ Costuming / Masquerade practically doubled in size this year. We had 4 participants. All the kids put some great work into their costumes and props. It was NOT easy to pick a Best in Show. I hope next year’s is even harder. My co-judges were Susan Brady, Debi Chowdhury, and Jonna Hayden. The kids played Cthulu Dice while we adjourned to the con ops room to make our decisions on who won what.

I do have to admit I didn’t make it to a single science panel this year. This is the first LibertyCon I’ve attended where I didn’t go to the Space Update or the Mad Scientist Roundtable. I have shamed myself.

All in all, I had a great time and am looking forward to next year.

Captain’s Log: ConNooga 12

Bubba Venom was probably the most entertaining cosplay I saw over the weekend. He even had a six-pack of PBR.

Had a great time at ConNooga this year. The author track definitely seems to be getting back to the full, diverse, and informative programming schedule it had when Robbie still ran the track. I’m very glad about this. For a couple of years it felt like authors were falling to the wayside.

I didn’t attend all the author panels over the weekend, but I went to most of them …and took notes.

I’ll be honest, it has the impatient side of me wanting to say screw finding an agent and go ahead and commit to the indie/self-pub route for Waves of Darkness. We’ll see. I have a few ideas jumping around in my head like a flea circus. Just have to pin the buggers down and decide what to do with them before I post anything definite here.

Friday, I ran a little later than I’d meant to and missed most of the 1 pm panel. There was a little confusion on where registration was (inside exhibit hall C instead of the main hallway). The new setup is a bit easier to keep organized, however: less confusion on whether people were in line or just hanging out.

The panel I missed most of was Plotting Your Book to Make the Best Story Possible with Dan Jolley, Gil Hough, Keith Robinson, and Kenyon T. Henry (you have to put the “T” in there or you wind up with some guy obsessed with cats instead of the author).

The 2 pm panel, in the same room, was Authors Talking About Their Books with Daniel Peyton, David Joel Stevenson, and Kenyon T. Henry (the author, not the cat guy).

The 3 pm panel was Sticking to One Genre or Following Your Creativity with Dan Jolley, Gil Hough, Jim Hodgson, and Kenyon T. Henry (poor guy barely got time to spend at his own table to sell his books on Friday). Most of the discussion in this one was about whether readers get put off an author if they switch to another genre. the jury is still out on if this is done for unrelated books, but all agree an author should never switch genres (not to be mistaken for combining genres) mid-book or mid-series.

The 4 pm panel almost ended up being held in the hallway. It got double booked in the same room during the second hour of a 2-hour retro gaming console free play session. The solution the programming director came up with was to ask the gamers to mute the sound on their consoles, which were positioned around the perimeter of the room, and the author panel took place in the corner where a table and chairs were set up for panels. Apparently the lights were controlled from the switches in the conference space on the other side of the retractable divider wall. Someone kept playing with them. Still, this was a very informative panel: Marketing Your Book to Increase Readership with David Joel Stevenson and Keith Robinson. I picked up some good ideas and advice I intend to look into. One example given of an author who’s doing it right turned out to be an author I already follow, Lydia Sherrer.

I would love to pick her brain on how to get a good street crew going. (Not that I don’t already have the beginnings of a good crew; I just want to learn how to expand it.)

While I would’ve loved to attend Radio Cult’s and Atlanta Radio Theatre Company’s performances, they were held at the Chattanoogan Hotel, behind and across the street from the Convention center. The rain kind of put a damper on that for me. (Heck, we had so much rain this past weekend up through late Saturday night, I half expected to see squirrels shooting the rapids on the stream in my backyard.)

The 8 pm panel was Rules of Writing with Daniel Peyton, David Joel Stevenson, and Gil Hough. For some odd reason, the app described this panel as an autograph session.

From 9-11 pm I played an adaption of D&D for the first time in my life, role-playing as an adapted version of Viktor Brandewyne in a sci-fi setting. The panel was called Authors Build a World and Play in It! D&D Live! Author and publisher, Joseph Cadotte acted as DM/GM and was delighted to finally get his wife to willingly play. I will say Vik doesn’t fare so well when the roll of a 20-side die decides his success or failure. It was a fun world-building exercise. Daniel Peyton was the other author involved in this game, portraying his Winter wizard character, although the DM changed the character’s name to “Tim” from “Dan.” (Kudos to those who get the joke and reference.)

The first panel I attended Saturday was Independent Publishing 101 at 11 am with Gil Hough, Keith Robinson, and Kenyon T. Henry. It was pointed out during this panel that most traditionally published authors never sell enough copies to start earning royalties past what they got as an advance; so the only way they can really make a living as an author is to keep cranking out books, provided publishers keep accepting them.

The next panel I attended was Channel Your Book: Secrets from a Professional Intuitive at 4 pm with Angela Anderson. Channeling, as she explained it, is an intriguing approach to writing, but this session seemed more about how to get past writers’ block, something I really don’t have a problem with. (Besides, I’ve got enough voices in my head without inviting anymore aboard.)I attended the 7 pm Authors Talking About Their Books session with Braxton A. Cosby, Clay Gilbert, and Joseph Cadotte. I have been invited by Mr. Cadotte to re-release my Waves of Darkness books as ebooks, provided they meet with his co-op’s standards regarding violent or sexual content. I know the later books in the series won’t fit, but he’d like to review Blood Curse, at least.

I only attended one of the panels on Sunday: Pimp Your Book at 11 am with Charles Collins and Sandy Gianportone. This was part of the deep thought track. Everyone attending talked about books they recommended. I took the opportunity to plug my books and read a snippet from the Vampire Meets Siren excerpt of Blood Curse. I garnered some interest but no immediate sales.

When not attending panels (I wasn’t actually ON any panels as a panelist), I spent time hanging out with Sandra “Con Mommy” ward at the info table. I also babysat the AB tales booth to allow the owner to have a bathroom and smoke break.

I didn’t do as much shopping as I did at Chattacon. I bought a copy of The Wendy by Erin Michelle Sky and Steven Brown, a t-shirt with some mermaids who look like they mean business on it, and donated $5 to the Make-a-Wish Foundation to have my photo taken in front of Toothless and his mate.

To wrap things up, I caught an impromptu furry dance party in the main hallway on video shortly before I went home. This was a great way to end the con on a “Happy” note.

Captain’s Log: LibertyCon 31

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Opening Ceremonies: Brandy Spraker, convention chair

Yet another family reunion has come and gone. Yes, family reunion, because that is what LibertyCon is to me. These people are my tribe. No, we don’t necessarily agree on some things, but what family does? The beauty of LibertyCon is that we don’t judge each other by our differences… and in this time in history, the very lack of toxicity is something to be cherished.

Sadly, I will have to miss this assemblage in 2019. The only way I will be able to attend is at the cost of someone else having to miss it then. For the very first time in the history of the convention, memberships sold out in a single day! In 6 hours, no less! I am on the wait list, but there are many more besides me and ahead of me. (You snooze; you lose.)

Hopefully, I will be able to secure a membership for 2020.

This year, however, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I actually made my first book sale of the convention before I even got the books into the building. a young woman by the name of Keesha, stopped me at the corner and asked me about the convention. She was disappointed she hadn’t know about it beforehand in time to get a badge. I told her where to find it online, and we both bemoaned the local media’s habit of not reporting about the local sci/fi cons until the last day of the convention (Oh, by the way, there was a science fiction convention this weekend. By the time you read/see this, it will be nearly time for them to close up shop.) Then, because I was in my real clothes for a change instead of my work costume or street clothes, she asked me if I was portraying a specific character or what. When she learned I was an author and that I write about pirates that aren’t nice and vampires that don’t sparkle (among other things) and that my Waves of Darkness series is currently out of publication, she bought one of my few remaining copies of Blood Curse. (I honestly think she would have bought the entire series if she could’ve done so without feeling guilty about it. 7 books in one shot can be a bit overwhelming.)

Over the entire weekend, I sold 9 books and am completely out of book 1 until I can get them back in publication (hopefully with the help of an experienced agent).

I learned some valuable tips and information on furthering my writing career, one of the things I prize this convention for. After all, not only is it a sci/fi con, it is a literary con. MY TRIBE READS BOOKS!

While I didn’t get to attend Terry Maggert‘s workshop on Writing Effective Amazon Ads for Indie Writers due to a schedule conflict, he has promised to send me a copy of the presentation.

I did get to attend John Van Stry‘s workshop on How to Become More Successful as an Indy Author. I took notes.

I honestly believe my current writing and self-promoting slump… no, I know the slump is due to the massive overtime I’ve been working the past month and am still facing for the next 3 months, at least. It’s just hard to make the time for it, when all one has time to do when they get home is eat, shower, and sleep. I’m simply going to have to make at least a half hour every other day to work on what I have to in order to keep my stories alive, both in my mind and in the minds and eyes of my potential audience.

That’s another thing about LibertyCon I love; it recharges my creative batteries and determination.

Two other panels I make a point to attend every year are the Space Update and the Mad Scientists’ Roundtable, both of which are moderated by Les Johnson, author and real-life rocket scientist. Both are so info-packed as to be too much to cover in a single post.

I thankfully was able to attend Atlanta Radio Theatre Company‘s performances of Robert A. Heinlein‘s The Man Who Travelled in Elephant’s (dedicated to the late Harlan Ellison, who first performed the role of The Ringmaster in ARTC’s first performance of the audio adaption at Dragon*Con 20 years ago) and George Alec Effinger‘s Terrific Park.

I followed this up with Writers Telling Sea Stories, an assemblage of former Navy authors sharing their fish tales and how they aided them in their writing (especially if writing military s/f). Of course, there wasn’t a deck ape among them, just snipes, IT, carrier personnel, and submariners.

As expected, my shared reading at 2pm Sunday didn’t happen. Sunday afternoon panels rarely get attended, because about half of the con-goers are heading to the airport or on the road so they can be home in time for work Monday.

As soon as I get around to it, I’ll post the 2 filk songs I recorded, performed by Gray Rinehart, on my Viksbelle channel on YouTube.

All in all, great con!

Captain’s Log: ConNooga XI 2018

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Hey, I’m a pirate. I’m taking the Iron Throne AND the dragons! (Props courtesy of Prop House 42, who were doing photo ops for donations to the STARS charity.)

I decided some time last year not to run an author’s table at ConNooga this year. My sales last year just didn’t bear up the expense. Instead, I opted to be a “book pusher” carrying a few copies around in my roller bag. I did that the first year the books were available in print and had good results.
I didn’t do as well as I did that first time; but I sold as many books as I did last year without the expense of a table. I’m happy with that.
Since I wasn’t tied to a table, I was able to really enjoy the convention this year.
I noticed some improvements in the placing of vendors. Authors were dispersed throughout the dealer room as well as a few in the main hall.
In addition to the convention center’s concession stand and the food trucks from Rolling J’s, Chick-n-nooga, and Spill the Beans, I saw 2 or 3 stalls selling pocky and other Japanese snacks along with anime collectables. Copper Kettle Gourmet Nuts was in the dealer room, and Bayou Billy’s Sweet Tea in the gaming room. There were a few gaming groups and a game vendor in the gaming room, too.
Most of the other conventions advertising themselves had tables in the main hall.
Plus, there were a wide variety of photo backdrops to choose from throughout the convention center.
I attended maybe half of the panels I’d planned on. Canvassing the dealer room and costume hunting ate more of my time than I thought it would. I still enjoyed myself and went to the ones most important to me.
First panel I attended was On a Budget: Self Publishing Overview with Gil Hough, Kenyon T. Henry, and Paul Cagle. I followed this up with Self Publishing 101 with Gil Hough and Jim Hodgson. Both panels were very informative and helpful in making some decisions about my self publishing options.
Even though I wasn’t slated to be a panelist this year, T. J. Morris asked me to help out with his panel, How to Develop Your Science Fiction Character. Honestly, I think he just wanted someone for backup in case he choked  (which he didn’t). I did contribute a little, but he had it well in hand. I picked up a few pointers which will help me improve my own skills.  (I also need to get the info on his cover artist; those were the type of covers that grab you by the eyeballs, remind you they are directly connected to your wallet, and say, “You. Need. This. Book!”)
Of course, I attended the Dark Princess Theatre panel. They gave some teaser performances of upcoming and new stories for their podcast. Sunday, I caught a glimpse of Hope “Lady Gwendolyn” Holloway’s husband, John, cosplaying a mundane. I have photographic evidence in my photo gallery of the convention on FB.
While I didn’t make it to the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company (ARTC) show, I did stop by both their booths and visit. Picked up a copy of their adaption of Treasure Island. Been waiting on that one. This was their first year at ConNooga. I usually catch them at LibertyCon.
I spent most of Saturday morning wandering the dealer room. That afternoon, I went to the first half of the Radio Cult concert then to the Gender in Fiction by Authors panel with panelists Alice Turner, Sandy Giamportone, Shannon Chandler  (no relation that I’m aware of… she may be a distant cousin), and Sophia Smith.  The concert was fantastic, as usual. The panel was interesting and raised some questions I hadn’t thought of.
Went to the costume contest as I do every year.
The last 3 panels I attended were all comics related: So You Want to Make Comics, with Dana Ortega, Matt Murphy, and Tara Hamilton; Okay Then Let’s Make Comics, with the same panelists; and How Comic Books Changed My Life, with Jared Jordan and Mark Compton. It was a fun evening.

I spent the entirety of Sunday roaming the dealer room and main hall on a costume hunt and pushing my books. I collected a TON of business cards to glean for more listings in the Smugglers Cove and Hucksters Haven.

I’m also keeping an eye open for when pre-registration opens for ConNooga XII.

Captain’s Log: Chattacon 43

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Author D. Alan Lewis (Blood In Snowflake Garden) tries on a yarn Krampus hat from Spinner’s End Studio (Joy Wandrey, knitnick@gmail.com).

Chattacon 43 turned out quite enjoyable and much more cozy at The Chattanoogan hotel. While the space for the Dealer Room was a bit snug compared to the space we had at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, it was still plenty of room for a wide variety of vendors. For the first time since I’ve attended this convention, all of the book vendors were individual authors; no travelling book stores. Artists, crafters, costumers and leatherworkers, jewelry makers, memorabilia and collectibles dealers, steampunk prop makers, and a t-shirt vendor rounded out the group.

Programming covered literary and writing topics, art, film, costuming, fandom, and gaming. I picked up several ideas and pointers as well as offers of future advice for my plans to go  into self publishing some of my works from some who have already made forays into that aspect of the publishing world. I hope I was able to offer some useful tips to the budding authors I met who are just now entering this often frustrating and occasionally rewarding world.

I only attended one room party (Libertycon’s party) Friday night and none Saturday. I’m not sure how many there were, but I don’t think the hotel management really wanted any of them. Room parties don’t mesh well with hotel security features. Convention security had to maintain a person at the elevators in order to enable them. One cannot make the elevator go up from the lobby in this without a room key card. This is great for keeping someone from off the street gaining room access for burgling, but it makes for an inconvenience for convention goers wishing to enjoy the tradition of circulating among the room parties.

Thanks to convention staff for running a con suite at this con; a tradition I hope never goes away. If not for them, some of us would have gone hungry. The main restaurant in the hotel was NOT what I consider affordable; a sentiment I heard echoed frequently by the second day. This may also have played a factor in the low sales in the dealer room. Does one buy books and nifty stuff or something to eat? (I only sold 4 books; even authors with better sales said the numbers were lower than what they were used to.)

On a side note: I plan to set up a page on this blog dedicated to sharing links from business cards, post cards, and bookmarks I’ve collected at conventions over the past few years. These are for your use at your discretion. If I’ve actually purchased from any of the vendors or authors linked, I’ll give my recommendation; otherwise, it is purely free signal boosting for those who’ve worked the cons I’ve attended.

So watch for it.

Captain’s Log: HallowCon 2017

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I will say right now that I thoroughly enjoyed my first attendance of HallowCon, and I will definitely add this convention to the list of those I regularly attend.

JoeDog McKeel’s first chairing of this con was a success despite all the last minute obstacles which popped up (mostly in the form of passive aggressive resistance from the hotel). Needless to say, HallowCon will be in a different location next year, as unwelcome as the convention and con-goers were made to feel.

I did not have a room at the hotel, being local and able to go home every night; so I will not go into detail on the complaints I heard from those who did book rooms. I will, however mention observations I made about the common areas.

First off, the lack of working electrical outlets along the hallway used for Author’s Alley was aggravating. These were working the day before the con started but not at all during the entire weekend. Thankfully, a working outlet was discovered in the breakfast area at the end of the hall, and a charging station could be set up for members and guests to keep their devices operational.

Some might say, “Who needs to be on their phone/tablet/laptop during a convention?” Please keep in mind, those of us there to sell our works/products often use our devices in tandem with card reading apps to allow us to make credit sales as well as cash sales.

The one other thing I found troubling about the venue was the lack of a handicap accessible bathroom stall in the restroom just off the lobby for common area use. How is that legal and up to code?

All that aside, the con was a blast and a much needed break from Mundania. Being a Halloween convention, there was no lack of cosplay and costuming. (The difference between those terms is whether a costume represents a specific character/creature or just a generic style of costume.) I made a few new friends and reconnected with some old ones.

There were also a few missed opportunities I wish I had taken.

Across the hallway and just a little catty-corner from my table spot was the author/media guest, Santiago Cirilo (Julio from season 4 of The Walking Dead). I never really tried to introduce myself or get to know him. I know I may come across as bold and outgoing sometimes, but I can find my introverted side taking dominance when faced with someone with genuine celebrity. I also allowed myself to be intimidated by his energy and exuberance. Still, what I observed of him leads me to believe he is a genuinely nice person. I hope he will forgive my shyness.

The Charity Auction this year benefitted the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. JoeDog and Donna McKeel chose this charity in honor of their granddaughter, who suffers from this condition. Joe added an additional 10% of the total funds raised by the auction to the donation. At the last report I heard, $1000 was raised just in the auction. I donated a full set of books.

As for the Con Suite, I must say this was the best food I’ve ever had at a convention.

My sales weren’t great, but they were better than at some conventions I attended earlier this year. I had a total of one customer, but she bought a full set of the series.

This marked my second time to attend a showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the first time to see one with a shadow cast acting out the movie along with it. Quite the experience, I must say.

Yes, I did the Time Warp again.

This audience was a bit more raucous than the one I previously viewed it with at Chattacon a couple of years ago.

As expected, a large number of guests and con-goers departed early on Sunday. Some came from as far away as Mississippi to attend this con and had to be back to work Monday morning.

I’m looking forward to next year.

I’d like to give a quick shout out to Edwin Morgan. He was promoting/recruiting for the Catoosa County 2017 Film Festival which will be in Ringgold, GA December 1-3. I wish I could attend, but I’ve exhausted all my paid time off for this year. Hopefully, I’ll have some to spare for next year. Also, it was some of his brood who kept raiding the candy and pirate swag (plastic coins, Mardi Gras beads, and glass pebbles) I placed out as freebies. I received several thank you hugs from one of his daughters.027

Don’t let the cute mini-Harley outfit fool ya; she’s a pirate at heart.

If you want to see more pics from the con, I have them up on FB here.

 

Please Stand By

I promise I will post a full report on HallowCon by this coming weekend. 11 hour work shifts and other concerns have had to take priority.

Also, for financial reasons, I will probably NOT be attending ConNooga in 2018. I WILL be at Chattacon; I already have a table reserved in the Dealer Hall. I just don’t think I’m going to be in a position to afford doing two cons that close together next year.